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Melissa Brenner, C’96

Executive Vice President, National Basketball Association

New York, NY

American Civilization Major

I was the first one in my family to go to an Ivy League school. My parents really sacrificed in order to send me to Penn, and I put a lot of pressure on myself regarding my career plans. In fact, during my time at Penn, my dad used to joke that my major was “Job”. We eventually had a conversation during my junior year about what I was going to do after school. Long story short, he said to me, “I just want you to be happy.”

I was the first one in my family to go to an Ivy League school. My parents really sacrificed in order to send me to Penn, and I put a lot of pressure on myself regarding my career plans. In fact, during my time at Penn, my dad used to joke that my major was “Job”.

There’s something about living in Philadelphia—I grew up in suburban Philadelphia—that sports are more than just sports. It’s the center of your weekend. It’s one of the first things you talk about when you see your family and friends. Parents won’t throw their kids’ birthday parties on Sundays if there’s an Eagles game; restaurants would rush to get your order in before kick-off; you would never call people during a game.

I eventually realized that I was really passionate about sports, and that’s where I set my sights for a career. For the coveted internship between junior and senior year, I must have sent out over 100 resumes – and I received 99 rejections. There was a Penn alum who had a senior position at a small sports licensing company called Score Board. He had decided at the last minute to hire a summer intern, and because of our shared alma mater, he selected my resume, and that was my first job in sports.

At the NBA, I oversee our social media strategy, emerging technology (virtual reality, artificial intelligence, etc.), our apps and websites. Obviously, social media wasn’t a “thing” when I graduated from college in 1996. Basically, I learned about it as I went along. Throughout my career, I have never stopped learning and investigating what is new and relevant, and it’s one of my favorite parts of my job.

I want to hire candidates who can think critically, who can present their thoughts clearly, and who can write well. I think those are skills that I acquired with my major. Ultimately, however, it’s not a candidate’s major that matters so much as what they’ve done with it—how it provided them with the skills they need to enter the workforce. — May 10, 2019 • Photo by Loraine Terrell